Friday, April 29, 2011

Stomping on my heart, as only a kid can do

If you are a parent, I know this has happened to you in some form or another. If not, it will. Just wait.

I was sitting in my office yesterday, typing away, when Jack walked in and stood by me.

“I have a secret to tell you,” he said, “And I don’t want you to get mad.”

Thoughts scrolled through my mind, rapid fire: had I heard crystal shatter? No. Did the dog still have a tail? Yes. Had I consumed anything unidentified just because he asked me to? No. Is he too young to have committed a crime or surfed for online porn? Yes. I should be safe.

“You can tell me anything, and I’ll try not to get mad. What’s up?”

He leaned in conspiratorially. He looked left, then right (purely for drama; we were alone in the house) and whispered, “I love Daddy more than I love you.”

WHAT?!?!?!?! Did I really just hear what I think I heard??

This is what I said:

“That’s okay, honey. I will never tell you who to love or how much to love them (editorial note: unless you want to marry some bloodsucking tramp I despise). You can love Daddy as much as you want.”

Relieved, he ran out of the room to play.

But this is what I wanted to say:

“You little stinker! How dare you?!? I have been your constant companion since the day you were born. Even before you were born, you sucked the life out of me, given that I’m short and you were a giant baby. I walked tilted forward for nine months. Then you nursed around the clock until I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t even muster up the energy to cry.

I’ve spent the past six years trying to delight you. Remember how we would lie on our backs for hours looking at the clouds? Or how I’d stop on every single walk so you could examine anthills? Did I complain? No, sir, I did NOT complain! Did I yell at you when you refused to play soccer, even after you begged to be put on the team? When Daddy was so irritated that steam was coming out of his ears? No. No, Jack, I didn’t yell.

Who’s there for you every single day?? Who holds you when you cry, puts band aids on every tiny scrape you find on your body, slathers you with sunscreen so you won’t suffer a moment of discomfort?? Who allowed you to be a barnacle until you were at least five?? ME, damnit!! I de-seed your cucumbers, for God's sake. Do you think that’s fun?

When you make me breakfast, I eat it. That’s taking one for the team, Jack.

I kiss you and hug you and listen to you and talk to you every single afternoon. I read to you. I dance with you. I hold your hand and hoist you onto my lap. Every repetitive time you ask me to watch how fast you run, I do it. I play every game that starts with you asking me to guess some inane thing. I hold worms, Jack, and here’s a newsflash: I think worms are slimy and gross and I hate them, but I pick them up because you want me to.

So you love Daddy more? Well, that SUCKS, Jack. Just so you know.”

I didn’t say any of that. But clearly I thought it.

When Whit came home, I thought he’d understand that my feelings were sort of hurt. I thought he’d give me a hug and say, “Awww, don’t let that upset you. He’s just a kid. Wait five minutes and he’ll love you more. It's a compliment that he feels safe telling you the way he feels.”


I got a fist pump and a “Yeah, baby!!!”

They deserve each other.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Daddy day

Today is take-your-child-to-work day. Caroline wheeled and dealed until Whit realized he had no choice but to strap her in his car and head to the office. I negotiated a lunchtime release so he can get a tiny bit of work done since he does, after all, pay the mortgage (and the grocery bill, and the electric bill, and every other bill. With the exception of the little bit of money I manage to bring in every month. And no, I will reassure my mother-in-law, it’s not earned by flashing my boobs on the Beltway, which I have often threatened to do when we’re short on cash.)

So Caroline put on a new outfit (that I, in my type-A way, already bought her for our big fourth of July celebration, because there was free shipping on Mother’s Day and we found something we both liked), including the new shoes on which the purchase of the outfit was predicated (shoes that I, personally, would wear because they’re very cute beaded sandals), and I watched her little blonde ponytail bounce out to the car behind Whit. She is beside herself with excitement.

This is what’s funny: she has a totally unrealistic view of what today is going to be like. I think she imagines that they will pull up to a gleaming building, and be whisked, George-Jetson-style, from the car. I think she thinks they’ll whoosh to the sky in a high-speed elevator, which will be filled with people clamoring to talk to Whit. I think then she thinks she’ll be told to pipe up with any good ideas during a top-secret, high-security meeting discussing matters of national importance. Then I think she thinks she’ll be paraded down the halls and all his colleagues will throw candy in her path. Then, in Sharpay style, I think she expects a grand lunch served on heirloom china. Then a limo will chauffer her back to school.

This is what I think will really happen: they’ll get stuck in traffic. Whit will answer his phone and say, “Mmm hmmm” a lot, but not say one intelligible thing that’s interesting. I think they’ll walk from the parking garage to a regular elevator and go to his office, completely undisturbed by nonexistent adoring fans, where she’ll see a lot of family pictures, a computer, a conference table and a dead plant. I think he’s going to have the important meetings but I think she’ll be sitting outside with a secretary (he did actually tell her to bring her DSi, which illustrates a major spousal difference – I would have made her bring a book).

Then I think he’ll introduce her to his friends, and yes, they’ll give her candy, because that office is filled with two things: candy and beer, and I would divorce/sue/kill him if he gave her beer, which he wouldn’t do anyway because he’s more protective than I am. (No. I don’t understand the candy/beer thing. I thought the internety office culture died out a while ago.) Then I think they will go to lunch, but I think Whit won’t eat because he has to take his secretary out to lunch for Administrative Professional’s Day as soon as Caroline leaves. Then I will chauffer her back to school, in my dirty SUV with popcorn and crackers littering the back seat.

And then the really funny part is that when asked about the day, she will honestly remember scenario A. Because to her, a day in the life of Daddy is a glamourous day well spent, no matter what you actually do.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Our breakfast table this morning

Me to the kids:

"Here’s a new word. Extortion.

It means someone giving you their things because you threaten them. Repeat the word."

Now let’s use it in a sentence. “Caroline practices extortion on Jack.”

Let’s back up. Anyone who has spent a while with Jack and Caroline will tell you there is an abnormal absence of fighting between the two of them. When someone comments on how beautifully my children get along with each other, I usually smile modestly, subtly taking the credit for excellent child-rearing skills.

But if you want to know a secret, it’s not that I’m a good mom. It’s certainly not that Caroline is some angelic sister.

It’s that Jack appears to absolutely adore Caroline, and will thus do whatever she asks. Without question, argument or hesitation.

They deny it, but she must be threatening him.

I’ll tell you what I see, and you tell me if you agree there’s got to be some extortion going on.

Caroline and her friends set up a snow-cone stand over the weekend. Their first customer was my dad, who I think paid them $5 to not give him a snow cone, and to just leave him alone. The second customer was Jack, who flew up the stairs to plow through his piggy bank. I told him the fact that he was standing in the hot sun, dancing to “YMCA” to attract customers (sadly, that was his idea, and there was no coercion involved) earned him a free snow cone. “No, Mommy, they need customers. Caroline said so.”

As another example, the kid sat and watched “Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure” rather than “Dino Dan,” which was turned off when Caroline walked in. He claims he didn't mind. But please. Sharpay? Seriously?

As yet another example, Caroline decided she would save up for an iTouch. (I don’t really know what that is, but I’m fairly certain she’s never getting one.) She asked for donations. From Jack. Who ran back to his piggy bank and donated. At this point, I think he’s blowing through the money he got when he was born. I can’t believe he’d willingly part with all that cash.

So what prompted this morning’s vocabulary lesson?

Well, Jack doesn’t have school tomorrow, and I told him he could pick a special Mommy/Jack activity. Caroline quicky requested a private conference with Jack, after which he came in to the kitchen and said decisively, “I want to go to Build-A-Bear. Then I want to give the bear to Caroline.”

There’s my evidence. The conference clearly indicates foul play. The clarity of the request clearly indicates coaching.

That's it! I've had enough! No Build-A-Bear!

Jack shrugged and said, "Okay. We'll get ice cream."

Good. Finally.

But then, remember how I’m passive aggressive? I just took all her snow-cone earnings and put them in Jack’s piggy bank. I always root for the underdog.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My name is Julie, and I’m a yes-a-holic.

I say yes.

All the time, whenever someone needs my help.

That's why I've variously found myself a room parent in two classrooms, a Girls on the Run coach, a Sunday school teacher and on said steering committee, a teacher-appreciation-week chair, a Girls Scout cookie mom/meeting hostess/field trip chaperone, a member of the PTA, a classroom copier, a dog sitter, a kid sitter, a guinea pig sitter, and a fish sitter. I’ve been president of the moms club, run Junior League committees (okay, I’m actually not a member any more, but boy, did I say yes a lot when I was) and hosted gigantic family gatherings.

All because someone asked me. Politely.

I say yes. Then I get mad at the people who asked. Doesn’t that make me a horrible person? It’s like a bait and switch. Or my incredibly passive-aggressive personality at work.

Yesterday, a good friend asked a favor. I truly, in my heart of hearts, don’t mind. It’s easy and it will be fun to do. But when I said, “Of course! Don’t be silly!” she said, “Well, you could always say no.”

That stopped me short.

No, actually, I can't say no.

When someone asks me to help them do ANYTHING, I say yes. It’s not because I’m nice, though it starts off like that. I want to help. I really do. I feel good helping. And I am so thankful when people help me. But the problem is that I say yes to so many things that I get stressed and I end up wanting to go tell everyone to screw themselves.

See? It’s not because I’m nice. It’s because I have a disorder.

I don’t even like fish.

Monday, April 25, 2011

It's almost over! Woo hooo!

Today is the last day of spring break.

Most moms I know are absolutely thrilled. To be back on a schedule? No, not that. To not have the kids at home all day? Nope, not that either. (Though honestly, I saw one of Caroline’s friends for the first time in a week yesterday, and she had a black eye. I raised my eyebrows at her mother.)

Mainly it’s so I can stop trying to have fun.

The spring break pressure started last year, when we were apparently the only second-grade family not going somewhere exotic. At least that’s the way Caroline saw it.

So I told her we’d try to go somewhere this year.

And, truth be told, we did try. We tried for skiing in Colorado, where Whit’s sister lives, but spring break was too late and the slopes were closed. We tried for Atlantis, but the idea of spending $10,000 on a water park in the Bahamas stopped me short. (The $10,000 price tag was a deciding factor, too, don’t get me wrong. But come on. Perhaps again I don’t know what I don’t know. But I don't have $10,000 so the point is moot anyway.) We tried for a cruise, but none of them were leaving until today. Right when I need the kids to go back to school; exactly when I don’t need to be trapped on a ship with them for a week.

I’m not much a keep-up-with-the-Joneses type. I met the Joneses, decided I could never keep up, so decided it wasn’t worth the effort. But the kids hate being (again, their perception) the only ones who don’t do anything fun over spring break.

So, the beach trip. Really, it was fun. Short, but fun. They went in the ocean, built sand castles, got buried, looked for shells – fun, fun, fun. That counts. But then we came home, and I started to stress. How would I make the looming second half of spring break fun? I had to. Otherwise they’d forget the beach trip and tell me spring break was boring. At which point I think I’d shoot myself.

So every darn day has been an all-out assault on boredom. (YES, I think children should be bored. YES, boredom is the precursor to creativity. NO, I do not want children who must be entertained 24/7. But guess what? When you’ve announced that there’s no TV/Dsi/wii/computer allowed and it’s those cavernous, long days of spring break, you suffer. Not the kids. They just bug you to death. So you’ve got to make a pre-emptive strike.)

Bike rides? Check? Breakfast, lunch and dinner out? Check. Multiple birthday cakes? Check. Playdates? Check. Massive mud fights? Check. Rock climbing? Check? Movie, in a theater, with popcorn? Check. Looking at the stars, looking at the clouds? Check. Park? Check. Board games, books? Check. Crafts? Check. Easter celebration that included a petting zoo and a magician? Check. Snow-cone stand? Check. Sprinklers, hoses, multiple changes of clothes? Check, check, check.

It's made me so, so tired. But still, we soldier on. One more day.

If they tell me they’re bored once today, or that spring break was boring, this is what I am going to do. I am going to have them sit on one couch. I am going to sit on another couch. And for an hour, I’m going to let them steep in true boredom.

And I might do something maddening, like sit and read a book.

That’ll show ‘em.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


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Friday, April 22, 2011

The infomercial addict

“Mom!” Jack called from the family room. “Come here, quick!”

Didn’t sound like he was bleeding or barfing, so I didn’t hurry.

“You’re going to miss it!”

Okay. What?

“Look. Look at the TV. You need this.”

I looked, and it was an infomercial for some vacuum bag that you use for storing clothes and blankets.

“See? You suck the air out and everything goes flat.”

“You can keep things for FIVE years. It doesn’t matter if you drive over the bag with a car.”

Really? Good. I was concerned that after I packed sweaters I wouldn’t need for five years (um, okay), sucked the air out of them so they’re flat, found a large mud puddle to drop them in and then drove over them in my SUV, they might be stained. Looks like I am at significant risk unless I call the toll-free number to place my order.

“Mommy, only $29.99. And if you order now, you get a second set as a bonus gift.”

Why can’t they listen to me this meticulously? Why can’t they retain small, one-word commands (like “FLUSH!”) as easily as they can retain pricing to the penny?

“And look! You can store your military uniforms! In the rain!”

Oh, Jack, I don’t own one, single item covered in camouflage. I never have. I likely never will. And honey, I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about storing my military uniforms, regardless of the weather in, apparently, my closet. I don't think I'm a likely candidate for any sort of draft.

“Well, Jack, that’s pretty cool, the way you can just stack things under your bed so easily. And the big sucking thing sure is nifty. But I just don’t think I need that right now.”

He looked at me, blinking. “But Mommy,” he said in disbelief, “Twelve sweaters in one bag! How can you say no?”

I think my work is cut out for me with this kid.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

So you say it's your birthday....

Yes, it is -- today (tonight, actually, if we're going to get specific), I turn 41. I have had, so far, an amazing day. The kids were as excited about my birthday as they get about their own. They each had very special presents for me: Caroline had chosen large pink and yellow butterfly earrings...they are so perfectly her. Of course I am wearing them, and she is so touched that she keeps saying, exuberantly, "Mommy, I LOVE that you love the earrings. I love you, and I love the earrings, and I love that you love them."

Jack used his construction set to make me a ruler. It is beyond adorable -- it has hinges and randomly spaced hash marks, and it's numbered 1 to 43. He told me I can use it to measure myself, since we measure the kids on their birthdays. I don't have the heart to tell him that I'm taller than 43 inches, even on a bad day.

Whit decided to make his own cards. They were gifts in themselves -- one had a picture of Snoopy, his area of illustrating expertise, and the words, "Happy birthday to the wife who has everything." On the inside, it said, "Especially me." How can you not love a guy that gives you that card? (He will read this and say, "WHAT?? I gave you a bike! I gave you an iPod docking station! I am taking you out to dinner! I did NOT just give you cards!!!" But I love the cards.)

The kids and I, along with some friends, just rode bikes for a few miles, then had lunch, then rode home. It's a gorgeous spring day, and riding under the canopy of cherry blossoms was almost a religious experience. (We tried to have a longer ride but Jack finally said, "Mommy, I'm only six. My legs hurt.")

Tonight we're going out to dinner. The kids picked a sort-of adult restaurant because the chef makes excellent mac and cheese, which is the holy grail of any children's menu.

All in all, this day has made me feel loved. And truth be told, this birthday stands in stark contrast to my 40th, which launched me into my midlife crisis. Once both kids were in school, I was staring at long days of Costco runs and listening to my dad cough up a lung in the basement.

I'm not going to get all goopy and sappy about happiness and trying to live your dream, but so far, I can say that starting the daily writing of this blog has (perhaps delayed, but hopefully) deflected the midlife crisis of those empty nest days. And if the midlife crisis comes roaring back, at least I’ve got a place to write about it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My undignified life continues

So today I was thrilled when the kids went to a friend’s house and I could go for a run. In shorts. With my iPod. The way I wanted to run the whole time I was at the beach. My time was pretty limited, and I also had to walk the dog, so I thought I’d just take him with me. It was warming up, but it wasn’t hot, and there was a nice breeze. Great weather for both of us, right?

Well. I could handle the fact that he stopped to pee or sniff every five seconds. I could handle the fact that he sometimes wanted to cross the street when I didn’t. I could handle the fact that I had to carry around a grocery store bag of poop with me.

But I couldn’t handle what he did after we turned onto a busy street, the longest stretch of my usual route. He started to pant heavily. Then he started to slow down. Then he started to walk. Then he gave up all pretenses of continuing and just laid down on the grass.

You might think you have a willful child…but nothing compares to my 90 pound Lab. He wasn’t going anywhere. At all. No forward movement, no matter what I did. I couldn’t bribe him, beg him or threaten him (all of which work with my kids).

I let him pant to cool off. He stared at me. I gave him some water from a hose to quench his thirst. He smiled and slurped. I said, enthusiastically, “Okay, buddy, come on!” He rolled over on his back so I could scratch his stomach.

I jumped around on the side of the road, holding the bag of poop, trying to psyche my dog into standing up, for twenty minutes. People driving by were laughing at my ineffective but obvious pleading. They honked their horns at me (which I rewarded with evil looks). He laid there, tail thumping, clearly saying, “I wanted a walk, not a forty minute sprint. You figure out how we’re getting home.”

My run was totally foiled. The dog won, hands down. When that victory was cemented, and I had stopped jogging in place and sat down in the grass next to him in defeat, he eventually stood up and strolled home. If I moved from a walk to a slow jog, he immediately laid down. He wasn’t falling for that trick again.

He is clearly the boss.

And I hope my life takes an interesting (but not mortifying) turn so I can stop telling you stories about the dog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Dorothy knew what she was talking about.

Do you ever look at your family, the family that's usually really normal, the family you adore, and feel like you’re all a big mess and everyone else has it totally pulled together? Or go somewhere and everything seems to go embarrassingly wrong? (Please don’t say, “No, Jul, that’s just you.” It's a rhetorical question.) I am just returning from a quick spring break getaway where I felt like we were a walking, talking, ungraceful, disorganized disaster.

Part of this stems from the fact that I’m usually a really organized, type-A person. When I’m going on a trip, I check weather and traffic reports. I put together a daily list of clothes appropriate for the weather and activities. I list every single thing I need, never forgetting basics. I do the list a week in advance so I can add to it and check it before the trip.

Well, I’ve had a nutty month. I've been disorganized in every facet of my life. A good friend kept asking if we wanted to go somewhere with them for spring break, and other than a quick effort to see if my sister’s friend’s vacation house was available, I zoned out. I finally said, “Pick somewhere and we’ll come. We just have to able to bring the dog.” We went to their house for dinner two weeks ago and my friend pulled up two houses on her laptop (in two different states) and said to Whit, “Which one?” I was so zoned out that I didn’t even know which state was chosen. I had to keep asking, because she'd tell me and I'd forget. (This was probably very, very irritating to my friend, who has a serious full-time job and was, in addition, doing the work of an unappreciated travel agent with a moron for a client.) That set the stage for the whole trip; I remained a little off, while she (and her family) remained very calm, cool and collected. You’ll see.

Fast forward to Friday, when I was making the butterscotch, extricating dental work, coaching Girls on the Run and running around like crazy. Did I make a list? Nope. Even Caroline made lists for her and Jack, and then, being a chip off the old bossy block, Xeroxed them for the little girl and boy in the other family. Did I check the weather? Nope. It was cold and rainy here, so on some subconscious level I figured it would be cold and rainy there.

Five hours south. At the beach.

Not an intelligent assumption.

The rain at home turned into a massive system of tornadoes that followed us every mile we drove. It was like storm chasers in reverse; those damn tornadoes found us everywhere we went. Because we were going to the coast, we had to cross a lot of really scary, WINDY, high bridges that made me wish I was driving a tank. Or a Hummer. I think we almost died at least 400 times.

Once we got down there, the list of everything I forgot began to grow annoyingly long. Blankets, because I always bring my own blankets? No. Kite, since there would be good winds after the tornadic activity? No. Headphones for my iPod so I could run? You guessed it…no. Sunscreen? No way.

I hadn’t checked the weather, remember? So imagine my surprise and sweaty discomfort when I realized we were going to have sunny, eighty-degree days. Looking through my suitcase, I saw thermal running pants and jeans. No shorts at all. Not for running, not for playing. The kids were swimming in the ocean and I was in long pants. And did I bring beach towels for the beach vacation? Of course not! That would have been way too logical. They dried off with the little white scratchy bath towels provided by the linen service. It looked very classy, I can tell you.

So I’m already feeling like a big old misfit. The other family has lists and clear Lucite containers and appropriate clothes and monogrammed beach towels and all the right equipment for a beach vacation. I’m rolling yoga pants up over my so-white-they’re-almost-blue winter legs. Which then got sunburned. As did my arms, in that attractive way they get sunburned when you wear a short sleeved shirt. So yes, I looked about as uncomfortable as I felt.

Then the dog tried to eat the guinea pig. Literally. He tipped her cage over, pawed the door open, reached his furry head inside, picked her up in his mouth and ran out of the room with her. I got down there after the rescue, in time to see a red-faced, sobbing Caroline holding a dog-slobber-soaked guinea pig and screaming, “He had her in his MOUTH and was carrying her around, Mommy! HE TRIED TO KILL HER!” I had to admit that was a big party foul, and our friends were just sort of stunned at the whole chain of events. They said, "Wow, Lucy (their dog) has never gone after our guinea pigs. I hope Bo didn't teach her something." I was so embarrassed I didn't even respond as I checked Lilly for internal bleeding. (Which is not, I found, very easy to identify on a guinea pig.)

Oh, what else happened? Let’s see. I was jogging across the beach, toward the ocean, when I heard a galloping noise coming up behind me. Imagine my surprise when it was Lucy, trying to herd me. Did I delicately maneuver around the dog? No. Can you imagine how odd it looked to have this big furry animal tackle me? I went down, hard, in a really undignified heap on the beach. To make matters worse, I landed on my leg wrong, so then I limped when I stood up. My friends were standing on the beach just staring at me, trying to figure out how a puppy upended a fully grown woman. “I’m okay!” I shouted, just the way Jack does when he falls off his bike. And then I limped away.

I can’t forget the Seder dinner our friends prepared last night. We’ve had Seder dinner with them before, and my Catholic kids love the bag with the frogs and the masks and the fake blood. But this time, they unfortunately sat down very, very hungry. And, at the Seder dinner, you have matzo on your plate that you’re not allowed to eat until page 21. All the kids could have was parsley dipped in salt water, which wasn’t going to cut it. Jack kept looking at me mouthing the question, “Can I get a cheese stick??” in the totally obvious way kindergarteners have of conveying secrets. In stark contrast, our friends' kids sat very politely, read the Hebrew flawlessly and looked very pious as they studiously ignored the matzo on their plates.

Then the indoor/outdoor carpeting proved very confusing to Bo, who interrupted our serene dinner with a loud, LONG pee on the leg of the table on the porch. Their dog was too dignified to pee, ever, which led to exploding bladder conversations, but at least she didn’t gross us out during dinner.

Now I wish I could tell you that the vacation ended there, with a fun, quiet evening of conversation and laughter.

But I can’t.

Because my attempts to put my exhausted children to bed early (still later than their regular bedtime, I’d like to note) touched off a massive, door-slamming temper tantrum in my daughter…exactly the kind of tantrum I was trying to avoid by getting her to bed early. So I’m screaming at her to get in the car because I’m driving her home (not advisable after the four glasses of Seder wine), Jack is crying because he doesn’t want to leave, Caroline is shouting that I’m the worst mother in the world, and the normal family is in the kitchen, eating dessert and playing a card game, trying very hard to ignore the tsunami in the bedrooms.

So my family was almost obliterated by tornadoes, I forgot almost everything I needed for a comfortable vacation, I dressed for a climate thirty degrees colder and 100% rainier than the one we were in, the dog ate the guinea pig, Caroline had a nuclear meltdown that scared every other inhabitant of the house and I was herded by a dog.

See? There was nothing graceful about our trip. It was like the Griswalds meet the Cleavers. The more appropriate my friends were, the more of a mess we were.

In spite of it all, we had a good time. But I did drive 80 mph the whole way back today, because there truly isn’t any other place like home. Somehow we just seem more normal when we’re by ourselves.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

No good deed goes unpunished

I’ll do a Saturday post since I won’t be near a computer on Monday, and maybe not Tuesday. (This assumes my devoted audience waits breathlessly to see what I have to say on any given day. Sorry, but if I don’t have these illusions of grandeur, I’ll get bummed and stop writing, and I really like the writing part.) Plus, this is funny. (To me, as my husband will remind me. Maybe not to you, but to me.)

Friday, Jack’s class presented “Many Communities, One Nation.” If you’ve never heard a kindergarten class sing, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” then you really haven’t lived. (It was actually the secular/make- kids-feel-good-about-themselves version called, "I've Got the Whole Globe in My Hands.") It was adorable, from the paper mache globes they painted to decorate the room, to the countries they chose to research, to the introductions made in every different language. Every parent was rapt.

Okay. Jack chose Scotland, because Whit’s family is Scottish. The parents were asked to contribute an authentic recipe from the country their child chose, and then prepare the dish and bring it in for the party.

I learned quickly that Scottish food sucks. The one recipe we found that interested Jack was butterscotch. Now, I’m a decent cook and baker, and I love to do both. But I’ve never made candy before.

So there I was, at the crack of dawn, trying to buy a candy thermometer. There I was, sweating, boiling the hell out of the sugar and water and butter and not even being able to pause to answer the phone. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was for Jack, so I just tried my best. I made the candy, let it harden, then smashed it into smaller pieces with a hammer.

When I walked into the classroom, I joked to my friend, “Teeth will crack all over kindergarten today.”

Huh. Famous last words.

Within twenty minutes of the event, that friend came up to me, bubbling over with glee. I could tell she had something to report. “Alexander,” which is what we’ll call him for blog purposes, “broke his crown on your butterscotch.”

I giggled, I admit it. I felt guilty, I’ll confess. I stood up for the kid when another friend said, “Why the hell does a kindergartener have a crown?” I started to make my way over to the mother to apologize. I left cackling friends in my wake.

Before I could take three steps, the mother was in front of me with a paper plate. “Oh,” I started…but she interrupted me. “Alexander lost his crown on your candy!” She didn’t seem mad, just pretty matter-of-fact, almost enthusiastic. A little like, “Well, we told him not to eat hard candy. What’m I supposed to do about it?”

I felt okay.

But then she said, “Look!” And shoved the paper plate in my face.

And I swear on all that is holy that she had the piece of butterscotch candy on the paper plate, and the crown was sticking right out of the top.

First, I wanted to barf. A crown ripped off a tooth by hard candy is not a pretty thing. Second, I wanted to laugh. She was carrying it around like she might run into a dentist carrying superglue. Or maybe like it was forensic evidence of a crime, and it had to be perfectly preserved to identify the perpetrator.

I almost offered to get some Elmer’s off the craft cart and stick it back on. I almost suggested he bite back into it and see if it stuck on the tooth. I almost offered another piece of butterscotch to dislodge the crown from the first piece of butterscotch.

But I didn’t do any of those things.

I apologized. With a straight face.

And then I haven’t stopped laughing since.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mind games

Truth be told, I got a little nervous when I got an email from a Psychology Today expert asking if she could repost one of my blog entries. You have to understand that this blog is like a journal to me…it’s totally unfiltered, sometimes the grammar isn’t perfect, and everything I write is exactly what I'd say if was talking to a friend. I don’t really think so much about what I write; I just write. I don’t even think that anyone will actually ever read it.

(As an aside, I really am a super private person. It’s hilarious that I, who will not name my children on Facebook, will publish stories about their poop on the internet.)

Anyway, I got an email like that, and at first I was just happy that there was one, single person on the planet who voluntarily reads my blog (as opposed to the family members and friends I stalk until they tell me that yes, they read it, and yes, they laughed/cried/vomited).

But then I realized it was PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. Emphasis on the psychology. And I realized that my little blog was probably a case study for everything that can go awry with the human psyche. I envisioned this woman, who seemed so sweet and funny over email, saying in a monotone, “And in the March 27 entry, we see significant signs of depression. The bipolar disorder is present on March 31, and the narcissism is clearly evident on March 18.”

So it’s been with a little trepidation I’ve checked my email to see if she was letting me know she posted something. I was half terrified of a diagnosis and half relieved that my blog tells you everything you need to know about me, so I don’t have to rehash it all in order to get the diagnosis.

Alas, I got the email, and found that my impression of Randi Epstein, M.D. as a sweet, funny fellow mom was correct. If you want to see the post that made her feel better about her own harried life, click here:

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Amnesia....a blessing in disguise

I used to have a freaky good memory. It was the kind of memory that really annoyed a friend of mine who likes to remember things that have happened in a slightly more idealized way than they actually did. She’s wanted to kill me on multiple occasions, the way you’d want to kill a really irritating younger sibling who always pipes up with the truth when you’re lying to your parents.

For example, she’d say, “Oh, remember four years ago, when we went to the park on that beautiful summer day? We had a picnic and the kids played in the stream. I’ll never forget it.” And I, being who I am, which can occasionally be described as a button-pusher, would say, “Um, no. I remember that you flipped off some old man who was driving too slowly, the kids heard you call him a moron, there were ants at the park, you yelled at us because no one liked what you packed for lunch, and so-and-so fell in the stream and almost drowned. It was hot as shit and your deodorant failed you.”

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but even my friend would agree it’s not too far from many conversations we’ve had that have left her totally deflated. And, truth be told, quite irritated that I've burst her happy (if totally erroneous) little bubble.

Anyway, much to her delight and my chagrin, my memory is slowly but surely failing me. I can’t help but picture my brain as a huge soup pot (a vast vat, as opposed to the tiny teacup it probably is) that just gets filled up with things to remember. When maximum capacity is reached, whatever is at the top just flows overboard and down the drain. I now forget things, like where I’m going in the house. I’ll pause on the stairs and think, “Upstairs to get dirty laundry, office to check email or kitchen to check my calendar? Where was I going?” I’ll forget the grocery list and wander aimlessly around the store trying to conjure up the recipes I had planned for the week. I’ll forget to pay bills (do NOT tell my husband) and I’ll forget to wish someone a happy birthday. I'll forget to return phone calls and emails, and if I am getting off the phone with you for some reason and say, “I’ll call you right back”…well, just don’t hold your breath. Sometimes I forget something I’ve always known, like what time the kids get out of school. Once I sent Whit and Jack to a birthday party a full hour late.

I am so thankful for similarly ditzy, if not ditzier, friends. I got an email yesterday from a friend who left her phone on top of her car and drove away…bye bye, iPhone. Now I’ve done that with coffee, but a smart phone is worse, right? A neighbor told me this morning that she forgot today is her daughter’s birthday. The little girl had to prompt her parents this morning, saying, “Today is super special! Can you guess why??” Neither one of them could really remember for a solid ten minutes. Her mother shouted this story to me as she peeled out in her minivan, off to buy the kid a bike before school gets dismissed.

The only person who welcomes this dementia is my husband. Along with my freaky good memory came an ability to hold a grudge like a pit bull with a human arm in its jaws. These days, I can’t remember the things he did 15 years ago that I swore I’d remember (and complain about) forever. It doesn’t matter if I go to bed ready to divorce him – in the morning, I can’t figure out why I was so wound up. The smart man knows that if he gets an attitude from me while he’s at work, he might as well go out for a drink with his friends and let that amnesia do its job.

Of course, it can work to my sneaky little advantage. I can forget to pick up the dry cleaning or walk the dog. I can forget I promised Whit he could play golf. I can forget I offered to babysit someone’s kids or dog. You can actually live quite happily with a very, very limited memory.

Add to that limited hearing, and I totally understand why my dad is smiling all the time.

I think he’s on to something.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A moment in time

Jack is playing kickball in the front yard with all the a full Spiderman costume, including a mask that completely obstructs his vision. He has yet to run into a tree.

Caroline has set up the camera on the kitchen table, and it's videotaping her as she sings and dances to Taylor Swift songs on the iPod.

Whit came home from work with a cold (you heard me, a cold. He's down for the count. I will not mention that I birthed a gigantic child, got him baptized, had the party and then served Thanksgiving dinner to 14 people, all within two weeks of the birth). So he's in bed, moaning.

My dad is going out to dinner with my brother, so he's waiting, standing in the middle of the street, leaning on his cane, shouting to me, "Call him, damnit! Where the hell is he??"

I'm eating jellybeans for dinner. (Don't worry, I am feeding the kids a nutritious dinner. Sort of.)

I bet no one else in the entire world is having a moment just like this one.

Deprived children

When Whit and I met almost 17 years ago, there were a few things about me he considered to be, well, unusual. Quirky. One was that I had never actually pumped gas. This was due to my unfounded fear of exploding gas tanks. (This fear likely developed after years of watching my parents smoke cigarettes while filling their cars.)

I had/have still never been to Disney. Not Disney World, not Disney Land, not a Disney Cruise, barely even the Disney store. We never felt the urge when Caroline was younger because she was terrified of costumed characters. Now that she's older, and no one is begging, it's easy to avoid it. I have nothing against Walt and his friends; we just never went as kids and I'm not that enthralled with amusement parks. (I know, I know, I don't know what I'm missing.) Frankly, I'd rather go to Italy.

And also a bit oddly, I have never eaten a Big Mac. Or a Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Fish Filet sandwich or anything like that. I still don't eat any fast food. I think it's gross. Jack and Caroline have never eaten at McDonalds or any other fast food restaurant, either. That probably makes them weird, and me un-American, but it's not my thing.

So you can tell I have my issues. Another one arises every spring (like, now): I hate the circus. I really do. I soldiered through it a few times when the kids were little, but mainly, now I just turn off the television when I hear the music that signals the circus is coming to town.

First, it smells. Second, I feel sorry for the animals. I don't think elephants enjoy hooking trunks to tails and walking in a circle, and I don't really think they're proud of themselves when they finish a painting. I can see the tiger watching the guy with the whip thinking, "If it was just you and me in a jungle, buddy, I'd tell you what do do with that whip." The horses look manic, the goats look sick and the alpacas just look pissed.

There are a few things I like about it. I like the acrobatics. I like the motorcycles riding aorund in the ball although I find that and tightrope walking a little stressful to watch. My favorite thing about the circus? When the elephants poop and some poor guy has to come running with a shovel. Now THAT'S entertainment.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The things I'll miss

I think we’ve established that a large part of my midlife crisis is because my kids are growing up. Yes, I want them to...but no, not really. As I stew in the sadness of them exiting childhood, it’s occurred to me that there are some things I will really miss.

1. The lack of knuckles. Take a look at a kid kindergarten-age or younger – they don’t have knuckles. They have dimples where their knuckles go. It’s one of my favorite things to see on Jack, and then I look at Caroline’s bony hands and get sad.

2. Buying Goldfish. Seriously, I stopped buying Cheerios a few years ago and it nearly broke my heart. But nothing says, “I have little ones!” quite like that huge carton of Goldfish in your shopping cart. Or the ones that are crushed in the seats of your car. (The Goldfish, that is. Not the kids.)

3. They don’t try to be cool. I mean it. Jack dances his little heart out and doesn't think he looks like a dork. (Editorial comment: oh, you should see that kid dance. It's a cross between an epileptic seizure and a break dance.) He plays with all the little girls in his class and doesn’t worry anyone is going to tease him. Caroline tells Jack she loves him, even in front of her friends, and she refuses to believe anyone would be purposely mean or tell a lie. They do things that are so funny, like read with a lot of expression just as they’re taught, or make up songs and sing at the top of their lungs, and you just know they’re going to realize they sound silly one day and that will be it.

4. Innocent tears. And by this I mean the opposite of manipulative tears, or moody tears, or frustrated tears. I mean little-kid tears: because their scoop of ice cream dropped on the sidewalk, or they fell off a bike and skinned a knee, or because Daddy’s going on a business trip.

5. Naps. I miss the scheduled ones, of course, but now there’s the occasional narcolepsy coming home from the pool, or on the couch on a Saturday afternoon, and I love it.

6. Thumbs and other comforts. When Caroline was little, she sucked on the ear of a little lamb named Lulu. Lulu is now buried in her closet, but Jack has his thumb, and he is 110% little boy when he’s holding his favorite stuffed animal and sucking his thumb.

7. Nightmares and thunderstorms. Both send one kid or the other flying into our bed in the middle of the night, and there’s nothing like wrapping a trembling kid in your arms and feeling their whole body relax because they know they’re safe and protected.

8. Walking home from school, and the nonstop chatter I hear as we do. They compete to tell me about their days. They talk over each other and interrupt each other and I learn all the highlights in ten minutes. Someday they won’t let me walk them home, and someday they won’t even answer me when I ask about their day.

9. The fact that they are thrilled if I’m a room parent or teaching CCD or coaching something or going on a field trip. Knowing that they love having me in their lives makes me happy.

10. Cartoons. I miss Higglytown Heroes, Blues Clues, Dora and Diego, Curious George and Oswald more than I ever thought I would. Jack, on his own, will get sucked into the old shows, but Caroline’s cartoons are the Phineas and Ferb/Spongebob variety. I’ll never get nostalgic about Spongebob.

The list could go on and on and on. Buying presents for birthday parties. “I love you” notes in their lunchboxes. The ice cream truck. Being called “Mommy.” Holding hands as we cross parking lots. I’ll miss it all so much.

And yes, one could suggest I try medicating myself. But I don't really think it's psychosis: I think it’s just called being a mom.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A little golf and some tears

I could write a really funny post about Whit’s Masters party yesterday. I could tell you that he doesn’t ever throw parties, and that his entire menu consisted of a keg, chips with a microwaved velveeta/rotel mixture, and steak sandwiches. I could tell you that my dad came upstairs, looked around and shouted, “Who the hell are all these people?” I could tell you that Whit grilled and sliced the meat then sat on the couch and drank beer and every guest had to fend for himself. I could tell you that his guest list was the most disorganized motley crew of golf fans and no one had anything to say to anyone else. I could tell you that even the dog thought it was a weird afternoon.

Or I could tell you about Kyle, who is the son of a guy who works with Whit. Their family was here yesterday. The dad is also a good friend of Whit’s, and just an amazing guy. Six years ago, when I met him, he told us he thought something was funky with Kyle’s eye. Kyle was ten. We didn’t know it, but Kyle’s funky eye was because Kyle was about to be diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer lodged in his skull.

Kyle is a sick kid. He told me yesterday that they’ve removed his face, from under his left eye down to his jaw. He told me he doesn’t have any taste buds and he’s not hungry unless he takes an appetite stimulant. He told me he’s tired of being amazing and strong and courageous, and that he just wants to be normal. He told me that when he was ten and diagnosed, his friends got scared and ditched him. He doesn’t blame them, he said, he just wished he didn’t have to hear the rumors that he was dying.

He told me he’s going to college – the same college his sister attends. He’s going with his best friend, who’s the one person capable of looking beyond his misshapen face to see the kid inside. He told me they’re going to run all over the campus playing a goofy game called “Sweet or Sour,” and that when he grows up, he’s going to be a doctor because he has, sadly, learned so much about medicine.

But Kyle’s dad told me that Kyle has made it clear he’s done fighting. He has survived stage IV cancer two times. He has shadows on his brain and nodules on his lungs, so the cancer is playing a mean game of chicken with this kid.

Kyle, I couldn’t cry when you were here yesterday. I could hug you, but I couldn’t rip that cancer out of your body and send you outside to play soccer. I couldn’t put the light back in your parents’ eyes. Despite my ability to find the good in everything, I couldn’t come up with a single reason you are going through this. I could give you a brownie and talk to you about video games while you were here, but I had to wait for you to leave to really let the sadness in.

It’s not pity. It’s not even anger at the wicked injustice of it all. It is just such deep sadness for this (sorry, Kyle) amazing, strong boy. It’s really an all-consuming sadness. I know that won’t help Kyle, but I don’t know what I can do that will help him.

Yes, it’s cliché, but hug your kids really, really tightly. And maybe send prayers or karma or kindness Kyle’s way. I know that I’m going to try hard to think of Kyle when some driver irritates me or the kids won’t listen to what I say – I’m going to put all my daily annoyances in perspective. They are so supremely unimportant when you look at what Kyle’s family is facing daily.

And then I’m going to hug my kids really, really tightly again.

Friday, April 8, 2011

There’s already poop in the toilet…and other indignities of raising kids

Here’s my top ten list:

1. Really, poop already in the toilet when you walk into the bathroom. Are they afraid it’s like an amputation if they flush?

2. You have to do things you really, positively, absolutely DO NOT want to do. Like get in a really cold swimming pool. Or play another round of Go Fish. Or wake up.

3. If you try to teach them a lesson about responsibility, like putting their shoes in the closet so the dog doesn’t pick them up and hide them, you’re the one who suffers when they can’t find them and you’re already late for school. So you run around like a lunatic while they finish watching Phineas and Ferb.

4. There is no adult body part that is off limits to little hands. It’s like they own your body. My chest is not a pillow, and neither is Daddy's tummy.

5. You can’t ever take a shower without interruption. Unless they’re totally, physically out of the house. Maybe out of the state.

6. Not once can you eat or drink something in their presence when they won’t want a bite or a sip. A big bite, or a slobbery sip. Is it bad parenting if you refuse to consume backwash??

7. If you, God forbid, pass gas, they notice. And comment. “Wow, Dad, that was a soft, quiet, long-lasting one.”

8. You can’t converse with another adult. You can barely converse with another kid without an aggressive interruption. In the middle of a sentence, I’ll hear, “I didn’t go to the bathroom ONCE today! That’s a record!”

9. You’re so worried about their self esteem that you have to listen to gross conversations. Like when they talk about what they found in their nose. Or what it was like to pick a scab.

10. You can’t ever tell them how to really handle a situation. You can’t say, “Just punch your sister and then she’ll back off” and you can’t say, “Tell your friend she’s being a bitch.” But, as adults, we know it would work.

Parenting. It's not glamorous, but we love it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

We are family

Just because it's so darn funny, I have to tell you the four reactions to the New York Times blog from my four siblings:

My sister: "I'm so, so proud of you and I've sent the link to all my friends and you're going to be a huge success!"

One brother: "I'm coming over to celebrate. Chill the beer. And oh, what'd you guys have for dinner? Any leftovers?"

Another brother: "Good for you. Now can you write something for me?"

Another brother: "Jul, good job, but I don't really want to read about your boobs."

Ahhh, family. You can't pick 'em, can you???

The Tour de Something

My birthday is coming up (41 seems like it will be ushered in with much less fanfare and angst than 40) and Whit gave me an early birthday present today: a bike. Now, that's not like an insulting toaster or a scale -- I am totally psyched. I've wanted a real bike for something like, oh, 32 years. Really. That's the last time I owned a bike, when I was in third grade.

Now, we've established that I'm short, so my bike looks a lot like Caroline's bike, but I have been assured it's a grown-up bike. And that the little shelf on the back isn't dorky. Mmmm hmmm.

So this afternoon, the kids and I went on a bike ride. We went to an old trolley trail that's an easy, safe ride.

I forgot that I have this weird competitive gene.

It's not that we were racing. It's just that I always wanted to be in front.

Well, so did my type-A daughter.

Poor Jack.

Caroline would pull ahead, then I'd zip around her. She'd go off into the grass and give me a mean look then haul ass up the hill as soon as guilt caused me to slow down. She stopped to take a picture (which is funny in itself) and I used the opportunity to grab the lead. Jack's shoe needed tying, so she flew triumphantly past me.

It was almost not fun. I don't like losing. And she's a worthy opponent.

Finally I realized how ridiculous it was that we were turning an afternoon bike ride into the Tour de France, and I let the kids coast down the final hill in front of me.

Fist pump from Caroline: "I won!" Kudos from her lieutenant: "Yeah, you beat Mommy! That's amazing!" (Thanks for the loyalty, Jack.)

Is it unsportsmanlike conduct to tell her I LET her win???

On second thought, don't answer that.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An over-the-top moment for this mommy blogger

If you were standing in my house right now, you would see me running around like a complete lunatic, screaming at the top of my lungs, hugging the dog and almost wetting my pants.

Why all the drama? Because I submitted something to the New York Times’ blog "Motherlode," and it was published today!


Okay. Snap out of it, Julie. Breathe in, breathe out. Act mature. Act professional.

And DO NOT drink champagne in the afternoon.


Electronic Love

(Sorry, it’s not about sexting. But close.)

This morning, I went downstairs to get my coffee. I checked my email while it was brewing. I saw that the kids’ school will be performing an opera while my in-laws are here in a few weeks. I sent them an email, and copied Whit on it. Then I went upstairs.

He was awake and checking his Blackberry. It buzzed as I walked in. He read the message, then looked at me getting in bed next to him, and said, “Couldn’t you have just told me that?”

Um, no. I would have forgotten by the time I walked upstairs. And yes, I know the office is at the bottom of the stairs and the bedroom is at the top, so it’s not that it’s a long commute. And it’s not because I have early-onset Alzheimer’s. It’s because my mind is a constantly scrolling ticker tape of to-dos and to-says and to-think-abouts. Something more important would have edged it out of my mind after all those stairs.

So anyway, I started to realize that Whit and I communicate electronically a lot. In part, this is because he is constantly in meetings and on conference calls and can return a quiet text much more easily than engage in a long telephone conversation. (Or so he tells me. He also tells me I am chatty. Hmmm.)

Also in part, because it’s easy and fast and to the point. It’s a virtual real-time conversation.

But I am noticing we do it A LOT. On any given weekday, there are 20 - 25 texts between us. Most very mundane – “Need anything at the store?” “Can you please pick up the dry cleaning?” “How is soccer going?” Sometimes it’s downright goofy. Saturday mornings, as I’m making breakfast with the kids and Whit is supposedly sleeping, I’ll get a text: “What are you guys doing?” I get hole-by-hole updates on his golf games (particularly if he's playing well). My favorite text to get during the witching hour: “Want me to stop and get some wine on the way home?” He knows when we’re at tennis lessons or I’m running into Target. I know when he’s off to a lunch meeting or leaving the office. He can tell me (citizen’s arrest!! No texting while driving!!) when he’s turning into our neighborhood so I can let Jack stay up for five minutes. It really is how we keep in touch when we’re apart.

Now, when gets home, we sit together and talk about our day – every night. Face to face, just like people did it last century. But this texting and emailing is a way to bond in this century, and it works. I feel pretty connected to him, all day long.

Sometimes that damn autocorrect gets me, though. The other day he asked me a question and I quickly answered that I was at “body pimp.” I meant a body pump class – I hope he understood. Oh, and last week I tried to text, “Duck over spring break?” That “D” got replaced (and, yes, sadly, the f-word is in my Droid dictionary) and, before I noticed, I hit send.

Oh. That’s why he was so enthusiastic about a beach vacation in North Carolina.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Games Kids Play

One of the things I have come to love the very most about our eclectic little neighborhood is the fact that it really is a slice of 1950’s heaven. The kids walk out the front door and five neighborhood kids materialize for kickball or football or soccer. No one even knocks on our door; kids just literally run in and out, eat if it’s time for a meal or a snack, use the bathroom or grab water. At any given moment, there’s a competitive game of something taking place on my front lawn.

Yesterday, we got a rare 80 degree, early April day. The kids all had spring fever. Before long, Caroline had assembled some kids (fourth grade down to kindergarten ages) and announced that they were going to play a game she invented called poison ivy. (She says she invented it, but don’t sue me if your kids play it, too.)

This game should have been called “Caroline is the Dictator.”

She first drew boxes on the driveway with chalk, and no one could move outside their box without her permission.

Then she positioned herself about twenty feet away from them with a ball.

When she called someone’s name, they were allowed to leave their box, and they had to walk toward her s-l-o-w-l-y.

When they got within firing distance, she drilled them with the ball.

Whether she hit you or not (and the kid isn’t a marksman, I can tell you that), you had to go in the “out box.”

Here and there, she’d randomly yell, “Hey! You just lost twenty points!”

At one point, a very bewildered Jack replied, “Why? I didn’t do anything. I wasn’t moving and I didn’t even say anything.”

And she said, “I made up the rules.”

Honestly, Caroline being bossy doesn’t surprise me so much. When I was nine, I got my ears pierced because my teacher called my mother and told her I was being a little less bossy with the other third-grade girls. So hey, the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

What does surprise me is that these other kids went along with it! The fourth grader is a really, really smart kid – he could read novels in kindergarten. So why didn’t he tell Caroline to take a hike?

Why didn’t Jack tell on her? God knows he practices that often enough.

Why didn’t all the kids revolt and go play a game where they weren’t getting nailed by a ball or penalized without cause every five minutes?

I don't know; that's why I'm asking you (and if your answer involves diagnosing a social disorder in my daughter, please keep it to yourself. I have enough to worry about). All I know is that I have never laughed so hard while cooking dinner.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Isn't letting go the hardest part?

On Saturday, the kids’ school had a movie night. They did private showings of two new movies at a local theater. It was really fun, and the kids loved seeing movies with all their friends. I think “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” was attended by the entire third grade…go figure. Lots of parental eyes rolled at that choice.

As we all milled about in the lobby after the movies, families started making impromptu dinner plans. We couldn’t really go with any of our friends, because I had promised my dad I’d cook him a nice dinner. Jack was getting tired and wanted to come home with us. Two family friends, though, invited Caroline to tag along with them.

Caroline and her little cronies had a fantastic time. Dinner, dessert, antics, giggles. She was beaming when she came home. Late. (This detail is solely in defense of the fact that I was already in bed. A night owl I am not).

Then she crawled into bed next to me and said, “I shouldn’t have gone.”

“Why? I thought you had fun.”

“I had fun. I had so much fun. But I missed you.”

I gave her a giant hug and told her I was glad she had gone, and I thought it was important for her to go do those things. Pretty soon she was over the missing me part and was regaling me with stories of the night (one of which included her hitting her head on a public toilet…I didn’t even ask what that was about).

After she went to bed, I thought about what is happening to her. I realized that she’s growing up.

She’s caught between being the little girl who wants to stay close to her mommy and the big girl who wants to go out with her friends. She longs for independence but it scares her. She feels something old and familiar slipping away from her as she recognizes something new and unknown coming toward her. She’s the little girl who wants me to scratch her back and read her stories, but she’s also the nine year old who wants to shut her bedroom door when her friends come over.

Wow. I never thought I’d see this struggle so clearly. And me? I’m trying to let her go, but it’s really, really hard. That child – both children – are pieces of me. I can honestly say I am astounded, daily, by the depth of my love for them. I think it’s horrible irony that if you’re a good parent and you love your kids and nurture them well, they will grow up and away from you. It’s such a paradox; I get sad that they’re getting older, and yet I am so proud of them, and happy to see their independence and life skills.

She’s going to grow up, and so is Jack.

It is my most fervent prayer that they live joyful, healthy, independent lives.

It’s my second most fervent prayer that they think of me often and call home. A lot.

And come to dinner.

Every night.

I told you I was having a midlife crisis.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My big mistweet

I'm a schizophrenic poster today. But I need to mock myself publicly before I can sleep.

I'm not very good with anything new. We're talking anything from trendy clothes to electronics...I still have the suits I wore when I worked in an office, almost a decade ago (DOWN! midlife crisis). My brother bought me a DVD player a few years ago because he was so embarrassed that I still watched VHS tapes. I don't own a laptop. I'm surprised I replaced my Walkman with an iPod.

So I'm sure you can imagine that most of my friends didn't know who I was any more when I got a Facebook page. I made every stupid mistake (one friend kept saying, "Do you want the whole world to see that, or just me?") but I persevered. I even learned how to defriend people (insert evil laugh).

This blog scares the crap out of me. No clue what I'm doing. Still don't really know what a blog is. In fact, it took me a week to add the "follow by email" button to my blog because I kept searching for WEDGIES rather than widgets. (I like thinking that was an honest, if not common, mistake.)

Still, I persevere.

Until someone told me I needed to get on Twitter to promote my blog (okay, since I'd rather have strangers read it than people I see in the carpool line).

Holy Mother of God, Twitter confounded me. So many @ signs and it's just this scrolling list of random thoughts (hey, kind of like my blog!! Maybe I do get it!). And they didn't use complete sentences. You had to decode everything. It almost brought on seizures when I looked at it. I had to get out of there.

But then I found out that an old college friend, who is now a newscaster in Atlanta (and, frankly, really cool), gave my blog a little shout-out on Twitter. So I tentatively crept back into Twitterdom to see what she wrote.

And like the biggest freaking dork on the planet, I hit reply (I know what that means!) and sent her the goofiest message. It was like a Twitter hug. But I, of all people, can't limit words to some crazy number. So I got flustered and hit send or post or whatever and then I couldn't take it back but I could imagine her sitting at desk going, "Okaaaaay, loser."

Oh, the humiliation. The stress. Twitter to me is like being dropped in the middle of a bullfight -- it's fast, everyone but you knows what they're doing and you feel like a donkey. Or, and this is not a stretch, like a horse's ass.

So here's my pledge: if I ever have something heart-stoppingly brilliant to say in 140 characters, I'll try to tweet again. But until then, my twitter trap is shut.

Busy little bee

This afternoon, I will coach Caroline's Girls on the Run team. Jack, otherwise known as my very adorable barnacle, will be there, too. Caroline will not be there. She'll be at a birthday party.

Then Whit will coach her soccer team. She'll still be at the birthday party.

(He told her he's benching her in the game tomorrow if she doesn't show up for practice. She totally doesn't get that it's April Fools Day.)

So much for not overscheduling. We're all out in force to support her and she's too busy to show up!

Uh oh.

This is Bo.

This is Lilly.

This is what Bo wants to do to Lilly.

This is a problem.

Hide, Lilly, hide.